Berkeley Law’s Clinical Program is pleased to recognize three outstanding students—the winner and honorable mention for the annual Brian M. Sax Prize for Excellence in Clinical Advocacy, and the Outstanding Clinical Student Award from the Clinical Legal Education Association.
Brian M. Sax Prize for Excellence in Clinical Advocacy
Ellen Ivens-Duran ’21 is the winner of this year’s Brian M. Sax Prize for Excellence in Clinical Advocacy. Ellen is a stand-out student and advocate who has consistently demonstrated her commitment to social justice and public interest law. She knows her clients do not live single-issue lives and is passionate about tackling holistically the varying sources of systemic oppression her clients face.
As a 2L in the East Bay Community Law Center’s (EBCLC’s) Health and Welfare Clinic, Ellen was perpetually thoughtful and intentional about demonstrating cultural humility and meeting clients wherever they were, including literally, when she set out in her car to bring clients to hearings they could not otherwise reach. Every client she assisted in accessing essential safety net benefits achieved their goal and, thanks to Ellen’s advocacy, can now afford stable housing and necessities. Her signature accomplishment was representing a client before a hostile judge and making such a brilliant impression through her dogged pre-hearing case development and at the hearing that her client won his disability appeal on the spot.
During Ellen’s summer in EBCLC’s Education Defense and Justice for Youth Program, one of her clients summed up her impact after Ellen helped him achieve a successful outcome in his juvenile court case: “I was absolutely speechless and incapacitated when I heard the words come out of the judge’s mouth. This is life changing and I will forever be grateful.”
This year, while continuing to champion EBCLC’s work as a student member of EBCLC’s board, Ellen turned her focus to capital defense. Ellen led her Death Penalty Clinic team in preparing an innovative motion that the state supreme court granted in part, making it more likely that her client’s unconstitutional death sentence will be overturned. She has enthusiastically welcomed every opportunity to assist other DPC teams, so several clinic clients have benefitted from her legal acumen and thoughtfulness about what it means to be an effective advocate. Ellen embodies the service-oriented mission of the Clinical Program, and her clinical colleagues and clients have been extraordinarily lucky to have her fighting alongside them.
Sax Prize Honorable Mention
Ted Lee ’21 has been awarded the Sax Prize Honorable Mention. For three years, Ted has been an active member of the consumer justice community at Berkeley, first through the Consumer Rights Workshop and eventually as an EBCLC Consumer Justice Clinic law student and co-leader of the Consumer Advocacy and Protection Society. Ted not only brings his own deep knowledge of consumer advocacy issues to every task, he also draws inspiration for systemic changes from individual clients. Ted brilliantly balances direct services with policy advocacy, in essence, working at both ends to ensure that future communities inherit a better world. During his time in clinic, Ted has taken the initiative to improve court notice to clients, served as the Consumer Rights Workshop resident troubleshooter, and codified a public comment program. He has created materials to educate consumers about their rights and warn against predatory companies, he helped to establish Consumer Law Advocates, Students, and Scholars (CLASS) to encourage communication between students and attorneys to the benefit of all, and he supported two national conferences about consumer rights. Ted works to protect consumers from every angle, supporting advocates wherever they are in their journey while simultaneously empowering consumers to protect themselves. His passion and kindness will be of great service to him and his clients as he continues his steadfast pursuit of justice at Inner City Law Center in Los Angeles.
CLEA Outstanding Clinical Student Award
Vanessa Rivas-Bernardy ’21 has won the Outstanding Clinical Student Award from the Clinical Legal Education Association (CLEA), given to one student or team at each law school that has demonstrated excellence in a clinic. During four semesters with the International Human Rights Law Clinic, Vanessa worked on policy advocacy, documentation, and litigation projects. Vanessa is a consummate professional, an empathetic presence, and a trusted partner. Each project tested Vanessa as an advocate and she rose to each challenge becoming an indispensable and highly effective member of each project team. She showed up prepared for every meeting, volunteered for additional work, supported her teammates, and found opportunities to learn more about her projects.
The volume of work product Vanessa generated is as impressive as the range of her advocacy skills. Over the last four semesters, Vanessa met with scores of community groups in Berkeley and San Francisco; traveled to Washington D.C. with a delegation organized by a coalition of southern border community groups to brief congressional representatives; and researched and drafted memos on a range of topics, including U.S. border policy, the history of anti-Black police violence in San Francisco, international truth commissions, and state surveillance of human rights defenders. Throughout her time with the IHRLC, Vanessa maintained an intense desire to learn about and contribute to the projects and a commitment to thinking deeply about the goals of the projects, her performance, and the limitations of the law. IHRLC clients, partners, students, and faculty all benefitted in countless ways from Vanessa’s diligence and dedication, intellectual curiosity, skills, and passion.
The three winners will be celebrated at the virtual Public Interest/Social Justice graduation on May 20.
We would like to thank the Sax Prize committee: International Human Rights Law Clinic Co-Director Roxanna Altholz (chair), Deborah Archer (NYU), Ronald Aronovsky (Brian Sax’s former partner), Russell Robinson, and Clinical Program Administrator Amy Utstein for their help with these important decisions. Read more about Brian M. Sax and the prize.